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Posts Tagged ‘Wetlands’

The days have lengthened enough now so I can once again get outside after work and that’s always a relief. Having to take enough photos on a weekend for two blog posts can be a challenge, especially when it rains or snows on one of those weekend days. It gets dark at about 5:30 pm now and that means an hour or so to get into the woods. Not much time, but when you live in the woods you don’t have to go far. On this day I chose a bit of woodland near my house that has an old dirt road running through it.

The sun was low and the light was just right to show you the shiny ice that covers the snow. This ice makes breaking a trail through the snow difficult, at best. I can remember how hard it was even at 10 years old.

But someone had driven down this old road with a 4 wheeler or something and that broke the icy crust and packed down the snow, so walking here was a breeze.

A young white pine (Pinus strobus) had fallen across the road and someone had come along and cut it up. We’ve lost a lot of trees to the wind this year but most were dead or dying. This looked like a healthy young tree.

There is a small stream out here that feeds into a large swampy wetland. I was surprised to see it so free of ice.

It was obvious that a large flock of turkeys had been through here. Turkeys are very active in winter and I see them everywhere, but I always seem to be driving at the time so getting photos has proven harder than it should be.

Turkeys have big feet that they use to scratch up forest litter with as they look for food. They’ll get under a stand of evergreens where the snow is thin and scratch up large areas looking for acorns, beech nuts, grapes, or berries they’ve missed on previous hunts. When spring comes they’ll eat buds, fresh grasses, roots, and new leaves. In summer they’ll eat a lot of insects, including ticks.

Mosses look so delicate but they’re very tough and will weather the ice and snow like it wasn’t even there. This is one of my favorite mosses. I like the way its fingers reach out to find new spaces to grow in.

Though there may be snow everywhere you look winter can actually be a very dry season, and this moss was so dry it’s hard to tell what it is but I think it might be brocade moss (Hypnum imponens.) Brocade moss is often very shiny and can have an orange brown color. Its common name comes from the way it looks as if it has been embroidered on whatever it grows on.

As I stopped to take photos I could hear a pine tree creaking as a breeze blew it gently back and forth. It was easy to believe that the sound would be the same on the deck of a wooden ship but it would be the mast creaking there, rather than the tree that it was made from. When this land was first colonized tall, straight pines were prized by the Royal Navy, and cutting any tree marked with the King’s broad arrow mark meant certain death. The trees became known as mast trees and the practice of the King taking the best trees led to the Pine Tree Riot in 1772. In an open act of rebellion colonists cut down and hauled off many marked mast pines in what was just a taste of what would come later in the American Revolution.

I stopped to admire the structure of a beech branch that stood out so well against the snow. Each twig is placed perfectly so one leaf doesn’t block the sunlight reaching another.

A golden puddle on the road told me the sun was quickly getting lower in the sky. This time between day and night is when the night creatures take over. I know this area well and I’ve seen some big bears near here but, though I’ve seen skunks coming out of hibernation already I doubt the bears are awake yet. It won’t be long though.

The old road leads to and around a large swamp. The breeze blew stronger here in this big open space but it was still fairly warm for February. It’s easy to imagine voices on the winds in such a place, whispering softly. For me it’s a peaceful, comforting sound but sometimes it can be a lonely one. I’ve heard that the wind drove early settlers on the Great Plains to madness but I think it was the loneliness more than the wind. It was the voices on the wind, sometimes whispering and sometimes howling, that told them how alone they really were. With a phone in my pocket I could talk to anyone anywhere at any time but they could not. Marty Rubin once said solitude is where one discovers one is not alone, but solitude is experienced differently by different people. For me it is simply a part of who I am and it brings me great joy, but I can understand how it might seem like a burden to others.

The southwest side of this sugar maple had sunscald, which is very different than frost cracking. Sunscald happens when southwest facing bark freezes at night after high daytime temperatures. Direct sunlight or sunlight reflecting off the snow can heat the bark during the day and bring it out of dormancy, and then when it freezes at night the active tissues are killed, resulting in the kind of wound seen here. Cracking and peeling bark is a sure sign of what is also called southwest disease. If this were a frost crack the crack in the bark would be absolutely vertical. This one curves like a snake and the dead bark around it covers a large area.

I’ve never seen witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) blossoming out here but here was a large shrub with the telltale cup like bracts on it. It even had the petals still coming out of the bracts but they were still there from last fall and were frozen. Native witch hazels can bloom on a warm day in January but I’ve never seen one blooming this late. The spring blooming vernal witch hazels (Hamamelis vernalis) will be starting to bloom any time now.

Indian pipes (Monotropa uniflora) are white and ghostly and grow in the dark places in the forest. They can get away with doing that because they don’t photosynthesize, but they do have flowers and when the flowers are pollinated they stand straight up from the shepherd’s crook shape seen here. This tells me that the flower seen here either wasn’t pollinated or didn’t see any need to stand up straight like all of its cousins. The seeds are fine like dust and I think the flower standing up straight must have something to do with rain being able to splash the seeds out of the capsule. Many plants and mosses use the same strategy for seed dispersal. Fresh Indian pipe plants contain a gel that Native Americans used to treat eye problems, and the common name comes from the pipes they smoked.

This is what the stained glass looks like in the cathedrals I visit.

I followed my own footprints back down the old road and saw how they meandered from this side of the road to that; a puddle of footprints where I stopped to admire something. This is how it should be for one who studies nature; meander like a toddler and be interested in everything. You see all the small, hidden jewels of the forest that way.

And find joy in the beautiful, simple things that make you smile, like a stream of molten gold weaving its way through a forest.

All this beauty, all this wonder, is right there in my back yard, and it’s in yours as well. I hope you’ll have a chance to get out and see it.

I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything. ~Alan watts

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

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1. Back Door View

Last Saturday morning this was the view from my back door, a measurable snowfall for the first time this season.  Naturally I had to take a walk in it.

 2. GB Heron

Old mister heron was in his favorite tree looking very cold, with one foot tucked up into his feathers. Of course I didn’t have my tripod, so this is the best I could do with photos of him. I was very surprised to see him in such cold weather.

 3. Heron's Fishing Hole

This is one of the heron’s fishing holes. Not his favorite, but at least it wasn’t frozen over. I would think that frogs would be deep in the mud by now, so fish must be the only food that he gets from here.

 4. Heron's Fishing Hole

This is the heron’s favorite place to fish but he probably won’t be fishing here again until March.

 5. Winterberries

Native winterberry shrubs (Ilex verticillata) grow on the banks of the heron’s fishing pond. The berries seem even brighter against the gray ice and white snow.

6. Dead Tree in Ice in Black and White

We had a cormorant fishing from this dead tree one summer but I haven’t seen him at all this year.  As long as he was out at the end of the tree he used to let me get as close to him as I was in this photo, but no closer. He was smart too-the sun was always behind him when I saw him, which meant that it was in my eyes, so taking photos was almost impossible.

As a side note, this is the first black and white photo that I’ve taken that has ever appeared on this blog. The only difference between this and the natural version is the ice had a tiny hint of blue in it; otherwise this was a black and white shot even though it was taken in color. I didn’t really have to do much of anything except let it lead me to where it wanted to be. Mr. Tootlepedal just won third place in a photo competition with a black and white photo and it was his example that inspired me to post this one. You can see his award winning photo by clicking here.

 7. Trail View

We didn’t get more than two inches of snow but it was heavy and wet and stuck to everything.  I saw sunlight at the end of this trail so I followed it.

 8. Fallen Trees

Snow really highlights features that you normally wouldn’t pay much attention to. I’ve walked by this huge clump of blown down trees countless times without giving them much thought, but the snow really highlighted their massive, now vertical, root system.

 9. Snowy Scene

The sky was very changeable and the sun seemed to stay just out of reach no matter which way I went.

10. Footprints

I think it was nature writer Hal Borland who noted how it is almost impossible to get lost in winter because all you have to do is follow your own footprints back the way you came. I agree with that unless it happens to be snowing when you’re trying to follow them.

 11. Sun Through the Trees

The meadow seen through the trees up ahead looked like it might have some sun shining on it or at least, brighter light.

12. Brown Grasses

No sun here, but I like to watch the wind blow across the fields of dry grasses in waves, as in “amber waves of grain.” I was glad there were no waves this day though, because it was cold enough without the wind. Little bluestem grass (Schizachyrium scoparium) seems to be the most common grass seen in waste areas and vacant lots in this part of New Hampshire.

13. Blue Shadows

When I was in high school I had an excellent art teacher named Norma Safford who used to annoy me by insisting that the winter shadows I painted be in shades of blue. I didn’t think blue looked natural and thought instead that they should be in shades of gray, and I told her so. Imagine me, the color blind kid telling the great Norma Safford how to paint! This lady has roads named in her honor. Not surprisingly, the camera shows that she was right and I was wrong.

 14. Wetland View-2

I finally caught up with the sunshine at this wetland and saw that it was melting the snow quickly. By the time I got back home it had almost all melted from my yard. The latest forecast says that we could get as much as another foot of snow tonight, so it sounds like it’s going to be a white Christmas.

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found? ~ J. B. Priestley

Thanks for stopping in.

 

 

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